WASHINGTON (AP) — One in 13 children could see their lives shortened by smoking unless the nation takes more aggressive action to end the tobacco epidemic, the U.S. Surgeon General said Friday — even as, astonishingly, scientists added still more diseases to the long list of cigarettes’ harms.
“Enough is enough,” acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak declared at a White House ceremony unveiling the 980-page report that urges new resolve to make the next generation a smoke-free generation.
“The clock is ticking,” Lushniak said. “We can’t wait another 50 years.”
On the 50th anniversary of the landmark 1964 surgeon general’s report that launched the anti-smoking movement, far fewer Americans are smoking — about 18 percent of adults today, down from more than 42 percent in 1964.
But the government may not meet its goal of dropping that rate to 12 percent by 2020, the new report cautions.
Nearly half a million people will die from smoking-related diseases this year. Each day, more than 3,200 youths smoke their first cigarette. New products such as e-cigarettes, with effects that aren’t yet understood, complicate public health messages.
And if current trends continue unabated, 5.6 million of today’s children and teens will go on to die prematurely during adulthood because of smoking, the report says.
What’s particularly remarkable is that 50 years into the war on smoking, “we’re still finding out new ways that tobacco maims and kills people,” added Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Tobacco is even worse than we knew it was.”
Smoking is costing the nation nearly $300 billion in medical bills, lost productivity and other costs, officials said. Yet Frieden said states are spending less than $1.50 a person on tobacco control each year when they should be spending about $12 a person.
The report urges increased use of proven tobacco-control measures, including price hikes for cigarettes and expanding comprehensive indoor-smoking bans.
The report also encourages research into newer ideas, such as whether lowering the amount of addictive nicotine in cigarettes would help people quit.